Pain specialist and Honorary Clinical Director of Integro Medical Clinics, Dr Anthony Ordman tells Sarah Sinclair why cannabis based medicines should be taken seriously as an alternative to conventional medicines – and how we can bring them into the mainstream.
“On balance, the medicines which we traditionally use to treat long-term pain, can do more harm than good,” says Dr Anthony Ordman, a senior pain specialist with more than 25 years experience in treating patients with long-term pain.
“If we’re not careful, we’re in danger of people being made worse by their pain medicines rather than better, for example they may end up over-sedated, but without any reduction in pain.”
Earlier this year, The National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) published a report on the use of medications for the treatment of long-term pain. It referred to a ‘lack of evidence’ for the long-term effectiveness of many of these medicines, and a risk of long-term harm, advising doctors not to prescribe common painkillers such as paracetamol and ibuprofen for patients with chronic pain.
Dr Anthony Ordman agrees that many conventional medicines have little to offer those living with conditions such as fibromyalgia.
“Doctors may prescribe these medicines in a well-meaning way, but only about a quarter of patients are really helped by them, whereas they all tend to experience side effects including sedation and memory deficit.
They can also tend to get hooked on them and never come off,” he adds.
“We have to find other options.”
As Honorary Clinical Director at Integro, Dr Ordman does offer patients alternative options. These take the form of cannabis based medicines, which he believes can often be more effective for treating chronic health conditions.
“We’ve been aware of the body’s natural endocannabinoid system for a long time. We believe this can become unbalanced in pain states and can often be re-balanced using cannabis based substances,” he explains.
“Medical science has known about this system for 30 years, but because of drug regulations and a concern among most doctors about the reputation of cannabis medicines, little progress was made.”
But in 2018, the regulations were changed so that medical specialists could prescribe cannabis based medicines. As far as Dr Ordman is concerned cannabis medicines can be a useful part of a whole-person approach to medicine, something which has always been at the heart of his medical practice.
Patient-centered care was a philosophy which he brought this with him to Integro, where patients are looked after by a team of clinical professionals, including a specialist nurse, in order to offer the best treatment possible.
“If patients have already tried cannabis based medicines, we listen carefully to their experience, and try to build on that,” he says.
“We try to work in partnership, rather than a paternalistic way, and there’s always somebody for patients to phone if they have a query or a problem. This is the sort of medicine I have always been keen to practice.”
Rather than just attempting to control pain, as is often the case with opioids, cannabis based medicines can be used to tackle a number of elements associated with pain which might also be affecting the patient’s quality of life, for example anxiety, poor sleep and low mood.
“Adverse life experiences, especially in childhood, can make peoples’ bodies much more prone to chronic pain later on, and what we’re often trying to do is restore balance in body systems which have become unbalanced by these experiences, or by ill-health, injury, and so on,” says Dr Ordman.
“I believe that, for example in fibromyalgia, real neurological changes have happened as a result of intense stress.”
He continues: “A lot of patients with long term pain or anxiety have impaired sleep physiology, so they wake up exhausted, and their body hasn’t had a chance to heal during the night. Cannabis medicines can help restore healthier physiological sleep patterns, which pain medicine now realises can be really important for restoring physical health and reducing pain.
“Another benefit of cannabis medicines is that they may be able to reduce inflammation in various parts of the body, and many types of pain are driven by inflammation, for example at the sites of injury and arthritis.”
One example is that some patients treated for Crohn’s Disease, an inflammatory condition of the digestive system, who are prescribed cannabis medicines to help manage their pain, may notice a reduction in the frequency of their flare ups as well.
Although Integro Clinics keep their charges to a minimum and have reliable access, via their partner pharmacy to high quality cannabis medicines currently it is mainly those able to afford to purchase their cannabis medicines who are able to access these treatments.
While Dr Ordman acknowledges that some forward-thinking consultants are taking an interest in using medical cannabis, helping more clinicians to understand cannabis medicines is key to seeing wider access through the NHS, he feels.
“The way forward in bringing cannabis based medicines more into mainstream medicine is through the understanding from a doctor’s point of view, that the chemicals in cannabis should just be regarded as molecules, like any other medicine.”
“Just as morphine came originally from poppies, and the heart medicine digoxin came from foxgloves we’re dealing here with chemicals which just happen to come from a cannabis plant. And like morphine or digoxin, these also work on systems that have been present in animals for millions of years.”
He adds: “Patients may tend to view cannabis medicines in a romantic way, because they’re from a cannabis plant, but doctors are more likely to see them in a more matter of fact way, as chemical extracts from cannabis which we can measure and analyse, in proper controlled ways.”
But patients do have an important part to play, as they are often the most knowledgeable and best-placed to broach the subject of medical cannabis with their doctors. Often they will have tried medical cannabis for their long-term condition and have a good idea of what best suits their condition.
“I think the way into the NHS and broader acceptance may be through expert patient groups and providing scientific and other information that patients can take to their appointments. This could inform their consultants or GP’s and put them in touch with their cannabis medicine doctor in a way that doesn’t seem to be confrontational.”
Dr Ordman is currently inviting a few select NHS colleagues to join him at Integro Clinics, where they would be supported in learning about prescribing cannabis-based medicines for a range of conditions and to carry out much-needed clinical trials.
“We’d love to have a gastroenterologist, a rheumatologist, a psychiatrist, as well as an adult and pediatric neurologist as colleagues at Integro Clinics”, he adds.
“Making lead consultants in the NHS aware of how cannabis medicines can be valuable for patients with hard-to-treat conditions such as intractable pain or epilepsy is important, and there may be other conditions for which cannabis medicines have more to offer, perhaps in conjunction with conventional medicines.”
Find out more and get in touch with Dr Ordman’s team at www.integroclinics.com <http://www.integroclinics.com/>
Integro Clinics Ltd always recommend remaining under the care and treatment of your GP and specialist for your condition while using cannabis based medicines, and the Integro clinical team would always prefer to work in collaboration with them.
New course offers expert advice on medical cannabis from doctors and patients
The Sativa Learning course includes insight from doctors and patients
A new online course on prescribing medical cannabis will offer a detailed insight into the industry from both clinicians and patients. Cannabis Health speaks to course creator and CEO Ryan McCreanor.
It will cover a comprehensive list of topics around cannabis as a medicine such as clinical evidence for medical cannabis, the practicalities of prescribing and side effects and contraindications.
The course, which will run online only, will also offer a variety of clinical and patient stories on a select list of conditions such as chronic pain, fibromyalgia, epilepsy, paediatric epilepsy, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Sativa Learning has already launched a successful online CBD course covering everything from the science behind the cannabinoid to UK regulations.
Ryan got the idea following his return from Canada to his hometown of Northern Ireland where he struggled to find decent quality CBD products. He started his career as a toxicology scientist before working for the Canadian government as an educator and trainer post legalisation in 2018.
“This was a way to bring a level of legitimacy to the industry by developing an accredited expert-led cannabis course,” said Ryan.
“The idea for the platform is that we want to provide education for all avenues of the cannabis industry. The CBD industry was a good place to start as I had a good level of knowledge myself so I put together a lot of the educational content myself.”
He continued: “I wanted to bring in real experts so we partnered with Professor Barnes and Hannah Deacon. All future courses will be CPD-credited. A lot of medical professionals will have to gain a certain amount of CPD points per year so they can take our course and feel comfortable that it is managed to a high started of further learning.”
As well as Hannah Deacon and Prof Barnes, the course also includes expert panels from Dr Dani Gordon who will speak about cannabis and oncology. Other classes will include Dr Elie Okirie speaking about epilepsy and Dr Evan Lewis on paediatric epilepsy. When it comes to the syllabus, the MCCS has put together the content for the cannabis course.
Ryan explained that they selected the conditions they included carefully to give a broad overview of common conditions.
He said: “We picked out 10 of the most common conditions for which cannabis is prescribed. We have fibromyalgia, chronic pain, cancer pain and women’s health issues. The doctors explain how they prescribe for that condition and have a number of patients who speak on camera about their experience.”
When it comes to panel discussions, courses or expert lead videos, it can often feel as if patients are forgotten. Ryan highlighted that this is a key part of the course.
“Not only do we have the doctors educating on cannabis but we have a follow-up with a patient talking about their experience,” he said.
“They discuss what life was like for them before medical cannabis, what their prescription is like and how this changed things for them.
“The industry should be all about the patients so we want to make sure that their voices are heard.”
The course will be fully online, with an option to learn as you go and break and save your progress whenever you are ready. At the end of the course, there will be an exam that will give you a presentation upon a passing grade. The exam is part of the CPD accreditation.
Ryan added: “Some people have blasted through our CBD course in one day where they just sit down and get through it all which can take up to six hours depending on your existing level of knowledge. This course is going to be quite a bit longer but you can do it all in one day or you could do a few hours a night for six months.”
The platform will be available for anyone who wants to learn about cannabis although Ryan explained that it may be more suited towards industry professionals.
He concluded: “There are no barriers to entry. The course is going to be available for whoever wants to learn about cannabis medicine. The language we use is heavily targeted towards the medical professionals as it is aimed at that audience to teach medical professionals about the basics of prescribing.”
CBD-enriched cannabis oil may reduce seizures in children with West syndrome
Four of the eight children had less than half the seizures they had before the trial.
A new study on CBD-enriched cannabis oil for seizures involving eight children revealed that electroencephalogram (EEG) abnormalities improved by 20 to 80 percent.
The study on seizures, published online, examines if CBD-enriched cannabis oil used as an add-on therapy could help children with condition that causes spasms. It found that four of the eight children in the trial had less than half the seizures they had before the trial.
The researchers reviewed the experiences of eight West syndrome children who were refractory to anti-seizure medications between May 2020 and March 2021. The children were aged between sixteen to twenty-two months and each received a dose of 25:1 CBD to THC as an add-on therapy.
The participants record a mean of 63 seizures per day with the lower rate recorded as 31 and the higher amount recorded as 79.
At the follow-up appointment, two of the patients reported a 75 percent to 99 percent decrease in frequency. A further two children recorded a 50 percent decrease while one patient did not experience any changes at all.
The authors wrote: “The index of EEG (electroencephalogram) abnormalities improved between 20 per cent and 80 per cent in seven patients concurrently with the reduction in seizures.”
“Tolerability among those patients experiencing fewer seizures was good and, overall, “adverse effects were mild and transient.”
West syndrome is a form of epilepsy. According to Epilepsy Action UK, West syndrome happens in about one in every 2,5000 to 3000 children. This means that about 350 to 400 children will develop the syndrome each year in the UK.
In 9 out of every 10 children, the first seizures will take place in the first year between three to eight months of age. They may happen in clusters or runs rather than singularly. The children may go on to develop learning difficulties as a result of the syndrome.
A new study published this month shows that CBD transdermal gel may help to reduce seizures and improve children’s quality of life.
The study, Safety and Tolerability of Transdermal Cannabidiol Gel in Children With Developmental and Epileptic Encephalopathies, was conducted in Australia and New Zealand. It involved 40 children with Developmental And Epileptic Encephalopathies (DEE). The authors noted that the DEEs were the most severe type of epilepsy typically beginning in childhood.
The non-randomised, clinical trial involved CBD gel being applied twice a day for six and a half months on children aged three to eighteen. The gel had a CBD content of 125 to 500 mg.
The researchers found that the gel helped in response to facial impaired awareness seizures potentially reducing them to 44.5 percent. It also helped to reduce tonic-clonic seizures where the muscles violently contract by 22.5 percent. Overall, the seizures in 33 participants were reduced by 43.5 percent.
The children also recorded improvements in alertness, alongside the seizure reduction.
UK Fibromyalgia announce two-part webinar about arthritis, fibromyalgia and cannabis medicines
The two-part webinar about arthritis and fibromyalgia will also feature patient’s voices
UK Fibromyalgia, Integro Clinics, Primary Care Cannabis Network, CPASS and PLEA are proud to present a collaborative two-part webinar discussing fibromyalgia, arthritis and cannabis medicines.
An estimated 1.5-2 million people are living with fibromyalgia and 10 million with arthritis in the UK. The management of the symptoms of these conditions can take a long time to diagnose correctly and can take even longer before they are effectively brought under control.
This two-part series aims to educate attendees on the experiences and lives of those living with fibromyalgia and arthritis, as well as show the benefits that cannabis medicines and CBD can have in alleviate some of the symptoms of these conditions.
Steven is one of three patients, who will be speaking at the second episode of the webinar.
He is a medical cannabis patient with fibromyalgia. He shares his story from first being diagnosed to gaining his medical cannabis prescription, and how his life has improved since then.
Fibromyalgia: Steven’s Story
Steven first developed FSH Muscular Dystrophy in 2014 and was diagnosed in 2016, after an initially incorrect diagnosis of Brachial Neuritis. Then in 2015, he developed fibromyalgia, which restricted him to a wheelchair, when outside his home.
His FSH Muscular Dystrophy had caused him severe nerve damage leading to his arm dropping forwards at the shoulder and giving him huge pain. He was prescribed Naproxen, Amitriptyline, Pregabalin, Tramadol and Baclofen.
All had limited effects on his pain and had horrible side effects. So much so that he was taken off them leaving him with very little to treat the symptoms of his fibromyalgia.
He said: “Fibromyalgia arrived during a very stressful period in my life, triggered by a car crash. Four months after the accident, I was admitted to the hospital having difficulties with walking and pain in my back, hips and legs. I had already exhausted all other common pain killers because of the treatment I had already received for FSH muscular dystrophy, which had started a year before.”
Having come off these medicines, Steven then had six weeks of physiotherapy, which didn’t help and caused him great pain. After this, he was not referred to any doctors or for psychological help, which he should have been as per NICE guidelines. It was at this point that he turned to medical cannabis, and in June 2019, he received his first prescription.
Steven discovered that using medical cannabis allowed him to gain back his mental and physical strength. It allowed him to sleep better and recoup.
Cannabis and Fibromyalgia
Steven said: “I got my first medical cannabis prescription in June 2019 and it was the best decision I’ve ever made to treat my illness. Over time the brain fog that I was perpetually in receded. I can compare my fibromyalgia with a volcano, that was bubbling and active – the cannabis soothed and quietened it. It allowed my stiffness and fatigue to reduce, and my body began to recover and flourish. Whole aspects of my personality that had switched off returned. Mentally and physically, I was healing, and I had the space to be me.
He added: “The consistent quality and regular supply of medical cannabis, as opposed to black-market cannabis, was vital. It allowed me to get a constant level of relief that allowed me to rebalance my vulnerable body and mind. With each month of use, symptoms would reduce or completely go and my kids all commented on the massive change in my energy levels.”
Steven will be part of the round table panel in the second episode of the webinar and will discuss why he believes medical cannabis should be more widely accessible for patients when conventional medicines no longer help.
He explained: “I want to help raise the profile of medical cannabis as an effective form of treatment for Fibromyalgia at the same time as helping to raise awareness of the condition. Because it destroys people’s lives, it destroys families, careers, takes parents, partners, friends & loved ones away from us and locks them in a constant cycle of pain, anxiety and fatigue. It is a very destructive illness yet mostly invisible because these people are isolated at home suffering & unable to talk about it.
“This webinar is an opportunity to shed light on the topic of fibromyalgia and bring more attention to this illness and exactly how it affects people.”
Dr Anthony Ordman, senior clinical adviser at Integro Medical Clinics Ltd said: “Integro Medical Clinics always recommends remaining under the care and treatment of your GP and specialist for your condition, while using cannabis-based medicines, and the Integro clinical team would always prefer to work in collaboration with them.”
If you would like further information or to speak to Dr Anthony Ordman please contact Integro Clinics:
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